Biblical Scholar, Seminary Professor, Episcopal Priest

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Hildegard: Life-Giving Language for Liturgy

A Liturgy and brief homily in honor of the Feast of Hildegard of Bingen, 17 September

Hildegard

Collect: O Fire of Love by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lesson:
*Sirach 43:1 The beauty of the higher realms and the pure vault of the sky,
the frame of the heavens manifests their majesty.
2 The sun shining as it rises illumines all below;
a wondrous instrument, the work of the Most High.
6 And more, the moon marks the changing seasons,
ruler of the ends of times, an everlasting sign.
7 To it belongs the appointed festivals and from it come the holy feasts;
and now it delights in its course.
9 The beauty of the heavens and the majesty of stars
is a sparkling witness in the heights of God.
10 At the word of the Holy One it stands as a statute,
never relaxing in its watch.
11 Look at the rainbow, and bless the One who made it,
for its splendor is glorious.
12 It encircles the sky with its glory
and the hand of God has stretched it out in might.
27 We could say more but could never say enough;
let the final word be: “God is the all.”
28 Where can we find the strength to praise God?
For God is greater than all God’s works.

*Verses 1-2, 6-7, 9-12 translated from the (Hebrew) Masada manuscript, MasSir.
Verses 27-28 translated from the (Greek) Septuagint.

*Psalm 104
25 This is the sea, great and wide;
creeping things beyond numbering are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, this one that you formed to play in it.
27 All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
28 You give to them and they gather it up;
you open your hand and they are filled with good things.
29 You hide your face and they are dismayed;
you take away your Spirit,
they die and return to their dust.
30 You send forth your Spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Creator endure forever;
may God rejoice in God’s own works:
32 The One who looks on the earth and it trembles,
touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Eternal One as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I endure.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to God,
for I, I rejoice in the Majestic One.

*Translated from the (Hebrew) Masoretic Text corrected against Dead Sea scroll manuscript IIQPsa.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world for the (sole) purpose of judging the world, but in order the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not judged; but those who do not believe are judged already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and humanity loved darkness more than light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do base things hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be scrutinized. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, in order that their works may be known to be done in God.”

Translated from the traditional Nesle-Aland (Greek) text consulting the (Syriac) Peshitta.

This Holy Eucharist will conducted as Rite II (beginning on p 355), shaped by the language of Hildegard of Bingen (in italics) who we celebrate today. You are welcome to pray the traditional language found in our prayerbook or to expand it following the example of Hildegard.

The Word of God

The people standing, the Celebrant says:

Blessed be God: Creator, Christ, and Compassion.

People:

And blessed be [God’s dominion], now and for ever. Amen.

The Celebrant may say

Omnipotent God, incomprehensible in majesty and inestimable in mysteries, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

On other occasions the following is used The Celebrant says to the people

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

The Collect of the Day

 

The Celebrant says to the people

The Living Light be with you.

People

And also with you.

Celebrant

Let us pray.

O Fire of Love by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lessons 

The Homily

In the name of God: Majesty, Mercy and Mystery. Amen. In 1098, the One Who poured the good and sweet intelligence into humanity (as she would one day write), midwifed Hildegard – later of Bingen – into the world. Eight years later she began her education at a monastery. Ten years later she became a nun. Another decade, another vocation; at 28 she became the abbess. For four years she received a series of visions. Out of those visions she wrote 72 songs, 70 poems, nine books – including a commentary on the Gospels and one on the Athanasian Creed—and a play.

Her writings combined science, art and religion. She was a preacher, traveling to France, Germany and Switzerland to proclaim the Gospel. She was a social critic and reformer of the church, writing popes and emperors to correct and guide them. Her exhortations were full of her concerns that the downtrodden be freed from crushing poverty and that every human being, made in the image of God, had the opportunity to develop and use the talents that God has given her to realize her God-given potential. She also knew something of architecture and engineering, when she moved her nuns to their own monastery, one without an attached men’s monastery, she ordered pipes to bring pumped water into the facility, a rather newfangled idea at the time. A Doctor of the Church, she joins Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux among the male worthies.

I celebrate her for the language she found and crafted to communicate her visions. In her honor I sought to translate the scriptures and the rubrics of prayer in language worthy of her. Inspired by her scholarship I employed my own, discovering the oldest manuscript of our Sirach lesson was the Dead Sea scroll from Masada, so naturally I translated that. Hildegard’s glorious visions bear witness to both the inadequacy of human language to describe the God Who rules the whole world with celestial divinity in the brilliance of unfading serenity and the unplumbed potential of our language to translate something of the mystery of the Celestial Majesty. Like Sirach and the Psalmist before her, Hildegard saw in nature a lexicon for the Divine. And though she often used male pronouns and masculine imagery like the scriptures, like the scriptures she did not limit herself to them.

Yet all too often the language by which we name God in the church and in our prayerbooks is limited by and to a gender God does not possess and to a poverty of images – beloved though they are – reduced from the vast wealth of the scriptures, often abandoning nature’s witness. Hildegard of Bingen teaches us that it is the finest doctrinal work of the church to name God in ways that employ a myriad of images:

Let us attend to her lesson:

O comforting fire of Spirit,
Life, within the very Life of all Creation.
Holy you are in giving life to All.

Holy you are in anointing
those who are not whole;
Holy you are in cleansing
a festering wound.

O sacred breath,
O fire of love,
O sweetest taste in my breast
which fills my heart
with a fine aroma of virtues.

O most pure fountain
through whom it is known
that God has united strangers
and inquired after the lost.

O breastplate of life
and hope of uniting
all members as One,
O sword-belt of honor,
enfold those who offer blessing.

Care for those
who are imprisoned by the enemy
and dissolve the bonds of those
whom Divinity wishes to save.

O mightiest path which penetrates All,
from the height to every Earthly abyss,
you compose All, you unite All.

Through you clouds stream, ether flies,
stones gain moisture,
waters become streams,
and the earth exudes Life.

You always draw out knowledge,
bringing joy through Wisdom’s inspiration.

Therefore, praise be to you
who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of Life,
who are hope and richest honor
bequeathing the reward of Light.

It frustrates me to no end that a medieval woman and Iron Age scriptures are more expansive and inclusive in their language for God than my own church and prayerbook. May we finally learn the lesson Hildegard offers, that our God is…the living God, ruling over all things, shining bright in goodness and with wondrous things in God’s works, whose immeasurable brightness in the depths of God’s mystery no single person can gaze at perfectly.

In the name of God: Divine Love, the Eternal Beloved and the Faithful Lover. Amen.

Silence

The Prayers of the People

Form II, p 385

Confession of Sin, p 360

The Deacon or Celebrant says

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Silence may be kept.

Minister and People

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says

Almighty God the Just Judge have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Redeemer Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

The Peace

All stand. The Celebrant says to the people

The peace of the Gentle One be always with you.

People

And also with you.

The Holy Communion

Eucharistic Prayer B, p 367

Offer yourselves and your gifts to God who is holy, giving gifts to all.

Set table

The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest, faces them and says

The Living God be with you.

People

And also with you.

Celebrant

Lift up your hearts.

People

We lift them to the [Lord].

Celebrant

Let us give thanks to the Eternal One our God.

People

It is right to give [him] thanks and praise.

Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty and Ineffable God, Who was before all ages and had no beginning and will not cease to be when all ages are ended.

Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Celebrant and People

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The people stand or kneel.

Then the Celebrant continues

We give thanks to you, God Who is true Love, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, the sacred matrix, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or to lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.

On the night before he died for us, our Redeemer Jesus Christ, the Great Word of God dressed in flesh, took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore, according to his command, O Shepherd of souls,

Celebrant and People

We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory;

The Celebrant continues

And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O God the Ruler of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.

We pray you, Living Fountain, to send your Living Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [Hildegard and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your daughters and sons; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation.

By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Sacred Spirit all honor and glory is yours, O Wondrous Wonder, now and for ever. AMEN.

And now, as our Savior

Christ has taught us,

we are bold to say,

Our Supernal Creator and our Father…

The Breaking of the Bread

The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.

A period of silence is kept.

Then may be sung or said

[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]

Facing the people, the Celebrant says the following Invitation

The Gifts of God for the People of God.

and may add

Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately deliver it to the people.

The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words

The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]

The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]

After Communion, the Celebrant says

Let us pray using the form on p 366.

Celebrant and People

Almighty and everliving God,
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food
of the most precious Body and Blood
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
and for assuring us in these holy mysteries
that we are living members of the Body of your Son,
and heirs of your eternal kingdom.
And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Deacon, or the Celebrant, dismisses them with these words

Let us go forth in the name of God, the magnificent, glorious, and incomprehensible.

People

Thanks be to God.

 

Adaptation of the Eucharistic Liturgy and translations of the Holy Scriptures by the Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Brite Divinity School and Diocese of Pennsylvania, The Episcopal Church

Research Assistance provided by Zachary Poppen


Lessons From Passover: A Farewell Sermon

Open the doors of our hearts. Open the doors of our hearts to the word we would hear and the word we would not. Open the doors of our hearts. Open the doors of our hearts to those whom it is easy to love and those who it is not. Open the doors of our hearts. Open the doors of our hearts to the stranger when it is convenient and when it is not. Open the doors of our hearts. Open the doors of our hearts wider than the fears that limit us. Open the doors of our hearts. Amen.

 Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching pour like the rain and may my word go forth like the dew.

Exodus invites us to imagine that someday someone will ask you about why you do what you do. In order for someone to ask the question, they have to see you doing something provocative. In the text, telling the story of liberation to the next generation is an act of living liturgy.

The story of Passover and its ritual instructions are not directly applicable to Christians and other Gentiles. But there are lessons to be learned here. It’s easy to focus on the story of the exit – as my dictation program typed instead of Exodus, a story of liberation – and then talk about all the ways in which we have been liberated and are seeking liberation for ourselves and for others. We may move easily into conversations about liberation of slaves here in America in the previous century and, here in America and around the world in this century.

But what about the command to tell the story? What about the liturgy of the telling? We have our own capital S story as Christians and individual stories. An important part of our faith is telling the story; that is the heart of evangelism. It is important, some would say crucial, for Christians to be able to tell the story of Jesus. But that’s not the kind of telling the text is talking about. The text calls for the Israelites to become living texts, to tell their stories with their actions and then when asked with their words. The living comes before the telling.

The text about telling comes with an expectation that the descendants of Israel will live the story in a particular way. The text foresees the future in which the daily lives and routine of people will be framed, not interrupted, but shaped by the liturgy they live. As cultural religions, Judaism and its ancient Israelite ancestor shape and shaped the daily lives and seasonal lives of the people born to them and those who choose them. While there are daily and seasonal Christian observances, they don’t shape the daily lives of its followers in the same way. Yet here in this time, when our living liturgies of the Three Days intersect with the living liturgy of Passover is an opportune time to ask how these liturgies affect our daily living. And looking beyond these days, what are the stories our lives tell?

Today is 14 Nissan 5774, Erev Pesach. Tomorrow is the first day of Passover (in our time zone). Jews all over the world engage in the liturgy of story telling at table in their homes, some tonight, some tomorrow night. Some unknown number of Gentiles like me will sojourn at those tables and share in telling that story.

Today, I would like you to focus on what if anything you do in your daily or seasonal life that tells the story of your faith. What are your living liturgical practices? What is it that you do that someone might see you do ask why do you do that? What does it mean? How do you mark the seasons of our collective story in your home? What do you do to tell your story when you’re not at church?

Today we are going to talk to our neighbors about our stories. In groups of two tell your story using these questions:

1-    When was the last time someone asked you about your faith based on something they saw you do?

2-    Are their ways you live out your faith in your home (other than Advent, Christmas and Easter decorations)?

3-    How/where/when do you share your story outside of your home?

Talk to a neighbor and Dr. Krentz will play us back together at the end of our time. (6 min)

So, what’s your story? The stories of Israel and the church are interrelated. Each is a study of a people who move from oppressed to oppressor. Each used their theology to justify dominating those with different theologies. And they continue to tell their stories. But the people who watched them didn’t always tell the same stories. The Canaanites didn’t tell the story of Israelite presence in the land the way Israel did. And folk on the bottom of the Church’s power curves don’t tell the same stories as those on top. Women and men, people of color and white folk, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk and heterosexual and cisgender folk tell different stories. But we’re part of the same great story. Privilege is seductive and the memories of marginalization loom large justifying using privilege to protect privilege.

You are telling a story with your life and when they ask you why do you do the things you do, what will you say about the story you have already told with your commitments, actions and inactions when they contradict the story you tell with your words? We are writing and being written as the Church, the story of God. Can anyone see Jesus in or story? That poor, Jewish, brown-skinned, non-gender compliant, establishment-critical, Hebrew Bible reading and preaching Jesus? What about that infuriating violence provoking Jesus? Anybody get mad when you preach? Anybody care when you preach?

In our first lesson, a portion of the Torah portion for the first day of Pesach, Passover, God tells Israel to tell their story and more than that, to live their story. Live the story you tell. And let it be the story of God. The story of redemption and transformation, the story of blending fellow travelers escaping the same slavery into a new people.

Our second lesson, a portion of the haftarah, the prophets portion for the first day of Pesach shows the Israelites telling their story of salvation in the living liturgy they had been given. There will be no record of Israel keeping the Passover in the bible again until the prophet Huldah canonizes the Torah scroll brought to her in the reign of Josiah, some six hundred years later, a reminder that if you neglect to tell your story, it will not die. It will wait for those who know its power to tell it again.

What’s your story? This place has a story, and old story and now you are writing new lines. What will you say when they ask you why you’re doing what you’re doing?

My time here has added new lines to my story. One is the certainty that the hijacking of the term evangelism by those who have redefined it by their example as religious intolerance, harassment, arrogance and bible bashing conversion drive-bys is a story that does not lead to liberation or even invite conversation.

When they ask me why I tweet, blog and insist on reading hearing and preaching from God’s word in God’s mother tongue, I have a story, one in which I hope my words reflect my actions, compelling, inviting, engaging, challenging and convicting, probing and prophetic. As we have lived our stories together, I have learned to tell my story in the public square in a way I couldn’t imagine, as drag-inspired womanist midrash, including vampire theology and critical analysis of race and its representations in popular culture, from the Masoretic Text to the movie theatre. That’s the story of this theological dominatrix. What’s yours? As we go our separate ways will the story you live be the story you tell? Will the story you tell be the story you live? The library is open.